Letters For My Sons

Category: Self-Change Page 2 of 4

Violence Is So Damn Easy, or Why The Hard Way Is So Hard

Sometimes, having kids is just the pits.

Particularly when you’ve made the commitment to an upbringing that abhors violence and uses communication instead.

Violence is just so damn easy!

Your kid ain’t doing what you asked? Slap him across the face!

Your daughter is talking back to you? Smack her on the bottom and send her to her room!

Your son is tantruming, screaming and crying over some nonsense? Scream and yell back at him, getting in his face with emotionally violent language about how he’s ridiculous to feel like he does, perhaps calling him a girl for crying!

face slap backhand

See? Just so easy!

Unfortunately, I’ve committed myself and my wife to methods much more difficult. We are living the middle path between a violent or neglectful adult-centric lifestyle, and a permissive, child-centric one.

The Hard Way.

What is the Hard Way?

The Hard Way is taking a step back, assessing the situation from an altitude of 50,000 feet.

The Hard Way is letting go of your ego, which is really a video flashback to how your own mum and dad parented (if it was good enough for me, it’s GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU).

The Hard Way is creating connection with your child at all times, but especially when they are upset, regardless of whether they are sad, angry, tantruming, or any uncomfortable behaviour.

The Hard Way is letting your kids be sad or angry, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

The Hard Way is not letting your kid have everything they want.

The Hard Way is being flexible, sometimes giving your child what she wants.

The Hard Way is ensuring your kid has regular screen-free time, even when you need a babysitter.

The Hard Way is coaching your child through success and disappointment, rather than being a cheerleader.

The Hard Way is finding and spending Quality Time.

The Hard Way is prioritising family over work, and Quality Time over money.

The Hard Way is loving your kids, loving them hard, and loving them always, even when your ego is reaching for a backhand.

The Hard Way is hard work. It’s a damn sight harder than the bullshit “Good-Enough Parenting” style that gives parents a guilt-free out every time it gets tough. But if you want to grow happy, satisfied, loving and unspoiled kids, the Hard Way is the only way.

Saucepan As Trucker Cap

If you’ve never worn a saucepan on your head for any length of time, I don’t greatly recommend it as a headpiece of comfort.  When I wore a small gravy pan into town many years ago, it kept slipping down the back of my head, and the handle would occasionally hit my shoulder, producing a not-altogether-unpleasant “bong” through my skull.  I’m reasonably sure it didn’t have any gravy still in it, because it probably would have remained more stationary on my pate.

What is interesting about wearing an item of cookware however, is the instant sense of self-awareness it produces.  On this particular occasion I became acutely aware of myself and everyone around me, and let me say… it was not altogether pleasant.  Many pairs of eyes warily rested upon my own, searching deeply, no doubt, for a murderous penchant or some other recalcitrant sign of insanity.

In the meantime, I was highly adrenalised.  This behaviour was obviously threatening to many people, not least to my own sense of self.  All my normal, beige, behavioural scripts were jumping up and down, screaming.  A simple metal pot on my head was turning my world upside down.

If I’ve raised you boys correctly, both of you will have a sense of awareness of yourselves.  One thing you should realise is that most people are not self-aware.  That’s not being nasty or pompous.  It is the truth.  Most people do what they do robotically, as if they have a computer script that they run for each activity.

COMPUTER BOOT-UP…

RUN: INTERACTING WITH WORK COLLEAGUES SCRIPT

RUN: BITCHING ABOUT FRIENDS SCRIPT

RUN: ARGUING WITH SPOUSE SCRIPT

RUN: TRYING SOMETHING NEW SCRIPT

We all have these scripts.  They make life simpler, with less mental overhead.  They also make life dull and predictable.  Scripts are the primary reason many people are bored with their little boxy lives.

Self awareness is important because it gives you a choice.  You can choose to run a script or not.  You can choose to run part or all of a script.  When I chose to walk into town wearing a saucepan, I was ditching many scripts I held dear, and the world was suddenly a very bright and very real place to inhabit.

I walked up to the counter to buy the items I wanted, balancing my headwear so as not to drop it on some unlucky toddler’s scalp.  The lady behind the counter examined me closely.

“Are you a pothead or something?” she asked.

Maybe I was.

The Greatest Detective Story Never Told

I’m a man who likes to be solitary.  I love to be alone with my body and my mind, exploring both.  I ran into trouble early with your mum, as she comes from a family where no one is ever alone, ever.  No one from her family does anything solo, or quietly for that matter.

Walk into my family’s house at Christmas time and you’re likely to find everyone with their faces in a book.

I had a realisation last night.  To really learn about myself, I have to truly be alone.  When I say truly alone, I don’t just mean on my own without other people.  I mean alone without distractions.  No devices, no books, no shows, no chores.  They are all colourful and entertaining noise that prevent me from touching that deep place where the boundless lies.

It’s tough to be truly alone.

It’s difficult to not distract myself with all this novel and wonderful noise, these nostalgically photographed cookbooks, those five-star self-development books,  some new and shiny techniques for saving time and achieving… stuff.

However, after years of practice, I’ve observed within myself a personal trend towards entertainment boredom.  I can’t watch shows or movies without a deep sense of boredom.  They all seem so infantile, so shallow.  Not one of them touches on what it means to be a human alone.  No show discusses the pain within and the way to heal it.  No one talks of the ocean of creativity that lies deep beneath the surface where monsters and beauties and the most incredible creations lie.  No one seems to know of the greatest detective story never told – the uncovering of your history, past, present and future.

If more people knew about it, Netflix would be out of business.

hard-stare

The Exercises I Used To Go From Loser To Winner

Physical attractiveness is born from two things, your genetic heritage, and how you use your body.  You were either born an ugly SOB, or you made yourself that way.  Happily, you can change that smashed crab on your head for the better.

When you were a child, you reacted to many different things.  Pain, joy, disgust, sadness… all these things made an impression on you.  If one of these emotions operated more strongly in your life than others, often there are physical signs.

My brother has extremely high shoulders.  Our father would backhand him at the dinner table, and pretty much anywhere else that took his fancy.  What protective mechanism did my brother as a child use?  He withdrew his head into his turtle shell.

turtle shell shoulders

Not this type of turtle

 

This muscular reaction then became frozen in time from overuse.  It transformed from a semi-conscious reaction into a completely unconscious body state.

Take a moment to think about that.  Extended emotive and mental experience literally transformed this man’s body.  How has your body fared in your lifetime?

I too used to have high shoulders from the same stresses.  But after a decade of working hard I’ve released them and felt the relief of physical and mental relaxation.

Let’s do an exercise.  Think about when you are stressed at work.  You’ve been working hard and the boss has asked a job of you with a tight deadline, and you are struggling to meet it.  How does your body feel?

 

bodywork relaxation

Kinda like this.

 

Maybe you clench your jaw tightly, raise your shoulders slightly, bend your lower back forward, squint your forehead and eyes a little, and tighten your lips.

Now imagine you’re lying in an epsom salt bath.  Which, if you haven’t, you should.  Feel the tension slipping away as the warm water seeps into your tired pores.  Sense the steam floating around your head.  A relaxing scent enter your nostrils.  A sigh of utter abandonment exits your mouth.  How do you feel?

I feel my back and shoulders coming down and sitting on my lats.  My forehead and eyes relax and close.  My buttocks and hip flexors relax.  My jaw starts to come down slightly.  How about you?

 

Mental Links to a Physical State

What’s interesting is your mental state.  In the first instance, you feel stressed, your mind is racing and your body is tense.  In the second, your body is relaxed and your mind is the same.

The question is: Which came first, the body state or the mental state?

Have you seen someone with a completely immobile face?  They are impossible to read, and their face looks frozen.  Do you think they enjoy life, hiding behind a face unable to express itself?  And what made them that way?  What affected that person to the extent they had to prevent any emotion making its way onto their face?  Imagine the control early on, where they told themselves that smiles, frowns, grimaces and surprise faces were forbidden.  What is that person’s mental state like?  I imagine it to be like being locked in a padded room with freedom forbidden, and any expression leads to the wardens entering with batons and syringes.  Utter misery.

keanu-reeves locked face

The childhood he must have had

 

When you look at yourself in the mirror, you see one version of yourself of a potential multitude.  Just as you can change your body through the gym or other body arts, your face can become more relaxed, and thus hotter in both the boardroom and to the ladies at your local, depending on both the mental state you hold, and the muscles you hold in a tonic state.

 

The Physiology of Emotion

In physiology, a tonic state is where muscles are held in chronic tension.  The muscles are locked on.

Trying to alter your character with chronic facial tension is akin to trying to use your phone while it’s locked.  It’s nigh-on impossible.  While the muscles are locked on, certain aspects of your personality are locked in concert.  Free up your face, and your attitude and personality are yours to choose.

Rollo Tomassi (The Rational Male) believes that personality is fluid and that people can change.  I too believe that, but it’s a whole fuckload harder to change behaviour when your body and face are locked.  This is why young guys in the PUA community just cannot change and go back to their old habits and patterns.  If you are carrying in your physicality a link to a vulnerable and painful childhood, you may as well never have grown up.

Your idea of yourself works in concert with how much tension you carry with you.  Those of you who work out and have put on a decent amount of muscle AFTER your early twenties can attest to the changes in personality that come about from muscular relaxation and activation.  Gym-goers not only build muscle, they encourage relaxation of tonic muscles through use.  Tonic musculature is hyper-activated, but when it’s consciously activated through repetitious movement, this chronic tension breaks down.

It’s not only hormonal changes that encourage character change in gym-junkies, it’s also the re-integration of the body with the mind.  Muscles that have been out of the mind’s reach for decades are suddenly able to be used and relaxed, and this frees the restrictive mental pathways that go with them.

Think about working an office job.  Imagine yourself hunched over.  In fact, do it now and test it out.  Hunch over.  Really tighten up your shoulders so they almost touch your ears.  Now, squint your forehead as tightly as you can while squinting your eyes a little.  Are you feeling a little restricted? A little grumpy?  Now imagine holding this physical position for years.  Do you think your mental state will get better or worse?  You could say that this moment that you started holding this position is the emotional state you will carry with you until you can relax that tension.

 

The Benefits of Unlocking Your Face

The goal here is to make facial and bodily appearance a choice rather than a static inheritance.  All men can benefit from relaxing and mobilising their face.  A mobile face is more attractive, and better able to communicate emotion and minutiae of expression.

Some of you might like a solid, unexpressive face because it can be used for intimidatory purposes, or can give the impression of strength.  I too use this face when necessary.  But in my case it is one of many choices, not a mandatory option.

 

hard-stare

Supposedly this is a hard-as-fuck stare. Thanks for nothing Google.

 

All men will benefit from increased attractiveness, increased external perception of empathy through better reflective expression, and more control over facial expressions.  Your face can start to mimic your words.

 

The Exercises

So how do we start releasing this facial tension?  The same way we release body tension, by tensing, relaxing and mobilising.

1. Start with the face as a whole.  I like to just move the entire face for a minute or two as a warm up.  Raise and lower your eyebrows. Lift your nose.  Roll your eyes around in their sockets while opening them wide and squinting them shut.  Open your mouth wide, mobilise your jaw from side to side, then squeeze shut.  Poke your tongue out, make shapes with it them pull it in as far as possible.

2. Make emotion faces.  Sad, happy, angry, contempt, surprised, confused, disgusted.  Here’s a handy list you can work from.  When you have an emotion face, say angry, change slowly to another emotion, sad for example.  Then to another, and another.  The key is to move slowly between faces.  http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions

3. Now make eye movements.  Roll them around.  Move them up and down, side to side.  You have many scripted and automatic eye patterns.  See if you can consciously replicate them, and maybe try some new ones.

These are just a few things to get you started. Try them out in the morning when you get up.  Five to ten minutes is all you need.

You can use a mirror for all of these exercises if you wish.  I find it helps with isolating muscle groups and practicing expressions.  For example I found that, while I thought my big smile was wide and smiley, it really wasn’t at all.  It was rigid and small with no eye squint, and only the left side of my mouth came up (you can read about left side facial dominance here).  I had often wondered why my big smile was not reflected back.  It’s because it was more of a grimace.  So I had to practice smiling wide in the mirror before I could take it outside and scare the neighbours with it.

You may find while doing these exercises that you might feel something.  As in, your feelings might bubble up.  This is all part of the process.  While you are changing your face you are also changing rigid processes that have been a part of you for perhaps decades.  This might cause some anxiety.  Just roll with it.  If the feelings get too much just try again tomorrow.

DO NOT underestimate the power of these exercises.  My character changed over the course of months after I started these.  If done properly they can go a long way toward changing your face, changing YOU, and making your life a whole lot happier and more enjoyable.

rock wall shed

The Art Of The Shed

One of the two main functions of this blog is to show men that self-change is possible.  And not just a little change.  Complete, one-hundred-and-eighty degree change.  Turn your life around, from the bottom to the top kinda change.  This is the kind of change that I have brought about in my own life through years of practice.

The second function is to show that this change can happen at any point in your life.  Age is no barrier to change if you want to do it.  All you really need is the patience to negotiate the land-mines of personality disruption.  You need, at minimum, a five to ten year plan to see permanent and visible change.

Self-change has immense potential for surprise.  I have completely surprised myself by finally becoming something I didn’t even know I wanted to be: a handyman.

I almost failed woodwork and metalwork at school.  I had no patience.  My father only wanted me in the shed to hold stuff for him, and had no patience for me to learn the skills I needed.  Most of the tools completely mystified me.

It wasn’t until I was thirty that I started thinking differently about fixing and building.  The great motivator was my father-in-law.  He had (and still has) a fantastic attitude to fixing what’s broke: give it a go, and if it don’t work, take it to the shop.

Once the engine blew up in my Subaru wagon.  Unbeknownst to me, he bought another wagon from the wreckers, called me to his house, and told me that we were gonna swap engines.

I was aghast.

“But that’s a mechanic’s job!  We’re not bloody mechanics!”

His confidence won me over and despite not knowing an alternator from my asshole, I decided to trust him to get it going.  Two days later, we got it running.  I asked him afterwards how many engine swaps he’d done.

“That’s my first one” he replied.

To this day it’s was one of the greatest “fake-it-til-you-make-its” I’ve ever seen.  It educated me to the power of doing stuff yourself, giving things a go, and throwing shit against a wall until it sticks.

Many men reading this will have read Jack Donovan’s The Way Of Men.  As he states, mastery is part of what makes men manly.  The drive to do things over and over again until mastered is innnate to many men.  The great thing about the shed is you don’t have to consciously “practice”.  There’s no need to sit down and practice planing or drilling. You just try stuff out and do things, and the practice comes from that.  I’ve spent years just mucking around here and there, fixing something every couple of weeks, doing something around the house, and I’ve finally reached a confidence level where creativity can happen.  I’ve been learning the rules so I can break them occasionally.

So I’ve been collecting tools and materials and building my shed into a handyman’s paradise.  My goal has been to get to a point where I no longer have to go to the hardware store to complete a job.  It is such a ball-ache to stop halfway through a job to get a pack of screws or oil or some tiny thing.  A one hour job turns into several hours, and your momentum get all screwed up.

I’ve been on holidays for ten days now and I’ve done a bunch of stuff:

I laid a rock wall.

rock wall shed

 

I built a timber box.

I built another box.

I got this motor running and only almost electrocuted myself once.

 

electric motor in the shed

 

I put together an old old table saw and considered running it with the above motor.  I then decided against it when I found the motor runs at 16000 rpm.  Just slightly too fast.

I fabricated a battery-powered cut-off saw from an old grinder and drill-press.

 

fabricated cutoff saw in shed

 

I ran power to my shed (fuck yeah!).

power in shed

I put a new bench top on my bench.

I cleaned and consolidated my tools, only keeping the ones I use most often on the board and shelves.

I planed, sanded and finished some fascia boards.

My compressor that wasn’t building pressure so I broke it down and repaired it.

I fixed the power steering pump in my car.

Power steering in shed

 

I have never enjoyed myself so much.  I’ve spent a couple of hours every day in ecstasy, using my tools, getting better at them, revelling in my own sense of mastery, and watching my property approach the picture in my head.  Those days of frustration in the woodwork shop are gone.

Part of my satisfaction come from rejecting the need to do everything today.  Impatience and the focus on getting immediate results destroys the enjoyment.  The happiness in building comes from the time it takes, the journey rather than the destination.  Patience is required, a lot of it, and as I get older, the more patient I get.  There is no need to rush.  I move one mile at a time.  One step, then another, then another, until the job is done.  It is a truly beautiful and satisfying feeling.

Boys, go get yourself a shed, and experience mastery for yourselves.

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